Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Summer Goal

At a teacher in TN 11th grade year includes a writing exam. There is a lot of emphasis on this exam as results are used to determine if English teachers are effective in efforts to instruct students. The test is scored 1-6; a score of 4 or higher is a passing score while 3 and below fail.

I spent a solid month focused completely on TCAP preparation prior to the exam in addition to prior writing lessons. I was happy with the preparation work we accomplished as the majority of my students were scoring 3 and 4+ on practice essays. The class read several sets of scored essays- worked in pairs rewriting low scoring essays into higher scores. My students practiced each part of the writing process. I made sure everyone knew without a doubt how much time to spend on prewriting, writing , and to allow a short time for revision. And made sure each student knew 2+ methods for every step of the writing process and that each selected one method and practiced that method 3 and 4 times during that month so they could write to his or her best potential.

I am happy with the results for most of my students. Most of my kids that scored a 3 simply cannot write well without multiple drafts and assistance. A few simply were not informed on the topic (prompt) and so could not come up with enough supporting evidence to make an essay. Others- despite repeated urging, the promise of a grade, the insistence that the exam reflected on me as much as it reflects on them simply didn’t try or care to try.

I feel after I reviewed my results that the problem isn’t that the kids don’t understand the process but they don’t execute the process with mastery. They simply do not feel confidant as writers. Despite efforts to make writing relevant students do not engage deeply enough in the writing process. Not one understands why writing is important or how it reflects on them.

My goal this year is to find more and frequent opportunities to make writing authentic and writing for an audience that will lead to publication. If a student believes his words will have an impact they just might care about what those words say.

With that in mind- I am on the look-out for authentic writing lesson plans, contests, opportunities, and ideas. Please forward me any authentic or publication possibilities my way.

Watch for comments on this thread... I will post resources I find.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Poetry Unit that Works

I can't tell you how much students groan when an English teacher mentions the word 'poetry.' It is like that simple word is enough to drive even the most calm and confident students into cold sweats and make their palms sweaty. When did creativity become scary and the imagination taboo? I'm not sure when it happened but there are people and organizations out there trying to inspire creativity into our youth again. One such organization is Poetry Foundation sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts they hold an annual Poetry Recitation Contest and provide free lesson plans and resources on the internet for students and teachers. I've adapted one of the lessons to my style of teaching to great success. Poems Put To use is a great lesson as it asks students to find relevance and relate to classic poetry as it applies to real life. To see my assignment click on this link -> Classnoteonline.com then download PoetryBook Assignment.

My students love this assignment a ton. The more classroom time you allow the better the assignment results but make that time structured with deadlines. Several students took the freedom of this assignment to dedicate the book to a family member or girlfriend or boyfriend. Others used it like a memory book and selected poems that related to events in their own life during the past year or their time in high school. This assignment is good for all grade levels although I increase or decrease the length and difficulty depending on student level and ability.

So what is it?... I ask my students to find three poems that can be put to real use in real life. Such as Langston Hughes poem "Dream Deferred" which can be used to inspire people at graduations or other occasions then this must be explained in terms of the way the poem would be used and why in no less than 100 words. The next step is for them to find a poem that reflects who they are. I call it a mirror poem. They explain how the poem reflects them. Finally- I ask the students to create four unique figurative language examples that represent who they are.

The students truly enjoyed the assignment and took them all back- the students who usually let me have their projects had to keep this one. If that isn't a sign of a good assignment I don't know what is.